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Billmeyer & Small Rail Cars Were Also for Export

Billmeyer & Small Co.s’ Eight-Wheeled Narrow Gauge Stock Car; Painted for Export to Costa Rica. This Illustration is the Car S within the Ad in Asher & Adams’ New Columbian Railroad Atlas of 1879 (Boston Public Library)

Asher & Adams’ New Columbian Railroad Atlas of 1879 is very large format; about 18 by 24 inch pages.  To get a lot of written material into a Billmeyer & Small ad appearing on page 408, the text is very small.  Small text coupled with the ad being reduced to 8-1/2 by 11 in all copies I have seen, renders the text on copies virtually impossible to read.

The written material in this ad essentially reads as if someone interviewed Billmeyer & Small on the state of their business in 1879.  On Wednesdays, in four parts, I’m posting a transcript of the text from the original of the 1879 ad.  This is part 2, the other posts in this series are:


In additional to a large domestic market, Billmeyer & Small Co. also produced rail cars for export.  Mexico, Costa Rica and many countries in South America are often noted as repeat customers in local newspapers of the time.  Billmeyer & Small has the distinction of exporting the first American rail cars to Japan; this order for 120 rail cars was shipped out of the Port of New York and delivered May 1881.

Part 2 Text from Billmeyer & Small full-page-408 ad in Asher & Adams’ New Columbian Railroad Atlas of 1879

Nearly all these cars have been eight-wheeled cars as DD, Flats; DDDD, Plain and Drop Bottom Gondolas; E, Box Cars, and X, Coal Cars, (some of which are illustrated on this page), with capacities of from 9 to 12 tons.  These cars vary in weight from 6,300 pounds to 12,000 pounds, and are built of Southern yellow pine and best white oak.  The size of wheels in three-fourths of the Company’s orders are 24 inch, weight averaging 275 pounds; size of axles, 3 inches to 3-7/8 inches, with journals 2-1/4 by 5-1/2 to 3-1/4 by 6-1/2 (the length of these journals include collar.)

The size of the lower frame of their Standard Freight Car is 25 by 7 feet, although in several instances they have built them 7-1/2 and 8 feet by 28 and 30 feet long.  These were generally used to carry iron and only a few ordered, and the reports are favorable for the 7 feet by 25 as the standard.  Nine tenths of the cars have the Billmeyer & Small Standard Denver & Rio Grande Trucks, admitting the wheels closer together, brakes hanging outside of wheels to trucks and in some instances to the bodies, which experience proves, are more desirable for repairs and free from obstruction by ice and snow in winter.

These trucks are specially adapted for roads having a large amount of curvature.  Swing bolster trucks are best adapted where there is little or no curvature, but we think dangerous on short curves on account of the swing and over-hang of heavy loads on such a small base as 3 feet gauge, and besides are certainly much more expensive in repairs.

The cars built by this Company have, in nearly every case, their patent pulling and buffing arrangement, now in use on over 2,000 cars; it is simple, and specially adapted for Narrow Gauge Cars and very economical in repairs and perfectly safe in coupling.  The Company have yet to learn of the loss of a single life or limb while in the act of coupling their cars; of course they place on cars such other buffers and pulling irons as are desired.

The usual width of Passenger—First, Second and Third-class—and Baggage Cars is 7 feet; length of body from 22 to 36 feet with capacity to comfortably seat from twenty-six to thirty-six passengers though they may be made longer and wider if deemed desirable.  In the cars 7 feet wide the seats are double on one side and single on the other, the arrangements being reversed in the centre of the car, so that each side carries half double and half single seats, which when the car is full secures a proper balance of weight.

By adding 1 foot to the width of the car, all the seats may be made double and its passenger capacity proportionately increased.  These 8 feet wide Cars they are now building more of than any others, they are 35 feet long in body and 41 feet over platforms and seat from forty-five to fifty passengers.  The Narrow Gauge Passenger Cars built by the Billmeyer & Small Company are in every way equal to the Best Broad Gauge Cars.  They are built of as good materials and are as carefully constructed, as finely finished, and, if so ordered, as elegantly upholstered and ornamented as any cars built.

Go to this post for an index of everything on YorksPast about 19th Century Rail Car Builders of York, Pennsylvania.  Check back often, as the posts on this subject expand to include all manufacturers.

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